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Daydreaming was once considered a normal and healthy activity, but in the past two centuries or even longer, it has gained a bad reputation as being lazy and unproductive.
Daydreaming actually stimulates creativity and makes it easier for individuals to find solutions to problems they face in everyday life, but with the advent of the Industrial Revolution it began to get a bad rap. In factories and assembly lines, productivity was increasingly linked to how quickly a worker could use a tool rather than to the creative ideas the worker had.
In fact, creativity in an assembly line tends to cause problems rather than solve them. As only the owners and managers had the freedom to be creative, workers were told to work faster, not to think, and not to daydream.
“daydreaming used to be considered lazy and unproductive”
It became common after the Industrial Revolution for parents to tell children to stop daydreaming and to pay attention to the real world. In fact, in the 1950s, pediatricians were warning parents that daydreaming led to neurosis and psychotic tendencies.
Parents, therefore, not wishing their children to become enfeebled or crazy from their daydreaming habits, sharply jerked children out of their daydreams whenever they noticed them staring off blankly, teachers punished students for daydreaming, and workers in the workplace were (and still are) expected to pay attention to what is happening in the current moment and not to let their minds wander.
The Value of Daydreams
Now, however, we are learning the real value of daydreams. Newer research has confirmed to us that daydreams are actually the seat of creativity and inspiration, and that by letting the mind wander we are actually allowing ourselves to have our best ideas.
In fact, daydreaming is connected with higher levels of empathy, increased intuition, better skills at solving problems, and a clearer idea of one’s life goals.
The reason for this is easy to understand: by daydreaming about different events, it becomes easy to imagine what life would be like for someone to whom these events happened. You essentially put yourself in the shoes of another person, in an imaginative way, and by so doing rid yourself of the narrow-minded view that the way you perceive the world is the only way the world actually is.
For writers, daydreaming may quickly leak into plotting and character-building, but it is also a refreshing break from concerted efforts to create a story, in which the mind can wander and inspiration often strikes.
The cognitive purpose of daydreams, as far as we can tell, is to work through questions and problems that the conscious mind has been struggling with, and to let the subconscious analyze them while the conscious mind rests. You do not have to be sitting still or free from distractions in order to have daydreams. In fact, physical motion can actually help you have daydreams, especially repetitive motions and motions that require slight but not over-exertion.
Taking a walk is a great way to slip into a daydream, as the activity of walking is light enough to not require concentration, but still keeps your brain active. You may daydream when doing household tasks such as washing the dishes and folding the laundry, and many people find hobbies such as knitting and crocheting to be meditative and conducive to daydreams.
It is incredibly easy to daydream: just let your mind wander. Do not judge or criticize your daydreams, and do not judge yourself for the daydreams you have. Just let the thoughts be there, and follow them where they will go. If you find yourself judging or feeling uncomfortable with the things that occur to you, stop and examine why you feel this way.
You may learn more about yourself than you expected to. You may discover deeply rooted fears or judgments that you did not even know existed, and you may find yourself coming to terms with yourself as a different person than the person you believed you were.
Benefits of Daydreaming and Why YOU Should Do It
The benefits of daydreaming are many and various. Daydreaming increases your creativity and helps you solve problems. It also helps you learn about yourself, your values, your fears and your triggers by putting you in different imaginary scenarios that you would probably never experience in your real life. Daydreaming is an important tool for understanding your hopes and dreams, and you can pick out recurring patterns in your daydreams as identifiers of important aspirations that you ought to pursue.
Daydreaming, because it is somewhat separated from practical thought, provides an environment in which you can come up with “outside of the box” solutions for problems, while conscious effort to solve these problems often results in circular thinking and coming up with the same, unimaginative solutions.
Of course, not all daydreams are created equal, and not all have the same effect. Studies have shown that highly creative people tend to have imaginative daydreams, in which completely fictional and imaginary creatures and people populate a world that doesn’t exist. For some people, daydreams are as vivid as sleeping dreams, and they actually see the things that they daydream about.
People who daydream in this way usually only refer to this sort of intense experience as a daydream, and do not say that they have been daydreaming unless they have been intensely seeing an imaginary scene. On the other hand, people who have never experienced the phenomenon of the “waking dream” in this way are often likely to say they are daydreaming when they are simply zoning out or letting their thoughts wander unchecked.
This is certainly not to say that they are wrong, only that there are different types of daydreams. Fortunately, it is easy to make your daydreams more vivid and imaginative: just do it more! By exercising your imaginative and creative faculties, you increase your capacity for imagination and creativity. If you, like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland, can learn to “believe six impossible things before breakfast,” you will find your daydreams becoming more real, more vivid, and certainly more interesting.